Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked operators to disconnect services to handsets that do not have an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and estimates ~25 mn handsets to be out of service from Apr 15.

What is the IMEI number and what does it have to do with illegal handsets?
IMEI is a British standard which is gaining popularity in the world. It is a 16 digit code that is addressed to each handset, which helps in tracking the location of the handset and the user. When a call is originated or terminated on an IMEI phone, along with the flashing SIM card mobile number, one can then track the phone through satellite networks.

What is at stake?
In October the Indian DoT had issued a directive to operators to ban non IMEI mobile phones, both existing in the network and new phones getting into the country’s network; with an objective of increased National Security and ease in tracking down the user from the channel he bought the physical handset. Our discussion with the government suggests that they plan to implement the directive as soon as possible; though operators have asked for additional time to track down the non-IMEI phones.

We estimate handsets not having a valid IMEI number to constitute ~6% of India‚Äôs wireless subscribers and ~4% and 1% of the country’s wireless revenues and EBITDA respectively. While these numbers are small, operators do not want to lose the customers and hence are keen to stretch the deadline. [We feel Government must not budge and enforce it strictly from April-15th]